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Militant groups protested the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) findings absolving President Benigno Aquino III, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman for the bloody dispersal of
farmers in Kidapawan that left two protesters dead last April 1.
They also took the CHR to task for saying the farmers were used by the leftist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas for its own purposes, other than demand for food in the face of a lingering drought brought about by the El Niño.
“What smacks of hypocrisy and irony is the CHR resolution’s recommendation for Congress to immediately pass the ‘zero hunger bill’ being pushed by Akbayan’s Ibarra Guttierrez, an ally of the Liberal Party where CHR chair Chito Gascon belongs,” said KMP Secretary-General Antonio Flores.
Flores said Gutierrez’s zero hunger bill deceives the farmers into believing that hunger can be addressed without breaking the monopoly and control of big landlords to vast tracts of lands and other resources.
“Now, who is engaged in deception and instrumentalization of farmers’ legitimate demands to advance the CHR chair and his group’s agenda?” Flores asked.
“Nowhere in the CHR resolution can you find a single mention of the landlord President’s name, Alcala and Soliman who are the most responsible for criminal negligence and outright denial of the people’s right to food,” Flores said.
The KMP leader added that “the CHR’s malicious interpretation of the farmers’ demand against militarization and Oplan Bayanihan was an insult to thousands of victims of the Kidapawan carnage.”
“The CHR itself is covering up the fact that harassment of farmers and militarization of peasant communities under Oplan Bayanihan were precisely the Aquino government’s response to the prolonged drought suffered by farmers,” he said.
Instead of addressing the drought by extending support to farmers, “the landlord in government who the CHR protects in its resolution responded with fascist measures to silence farmers’ demand for food,” he added.
“In fact, the Kidapawan carnage is the culmination of Oplan Bayanihan’s implementation against farmers suffering from drought.”
“This clearly demonstrates that the CHR is an instrument of big landlords and has lost any remaining credibility in upholding people’s rights,” the peasant leader said.
Flores added “the CHR bowed and yielded to Malacañang’s blame-the-victim spin by invoking Batas Pambansa 880, which was a Marcos edict to suppress the freedom of assembly.”
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. said the CHR was correct in pointing out the responsibility of the government in failing to address the demand for food in a timely manner, and that the police used excessive force, including the unjustified and illegal discharge of firearms.
“The report goes on to say that the PNP fired the first shot,” Reyes said.
But Reyes was quick to take exception to the CHR findings that the farmers were “used” by the KMP.
Reyes said the CHR report itself admitted that drought and hunger were the reasons for the protest.
“There was no ideological agenda. We reject the claim that the farmers were used or in the words of the CHR, ‘instrumentalized’ to further the ideological agenda of the protest leaders. The malicious findings seek to drive a wedge between the organizations and farmers themselves,” Reyes said.
“The report goes on to make the recommendation that rally leaders from the KMP be held accountable as well, even if they themselves were also victims of the violent dispersal,” he said.
Reyes described as “patently absurd” the finding that rally organizers should also be “held responsible for the abuse of civil and political rights” of the farmers, and places them in the same league as the state in terms of human rights violations.
“It has been two months since the violent Kidapawan dispersal that claimed two lives and injured scores of protesters. Not one official has been made accountable for the violence. There is a pending case filed against 94 national and local officials before the Office of the Ombudsman in Davao. We hope that justice will be achieved under the new Duterte administration,” Reyes said.
“What happened in Kidapawan must never be repeated. Government must take decisive steps in addressing the demands for food, relief and support for drought-stricken farmers nationwide,” he added.
Flores, for his part, said the CHR resolution was the “height of stupidity, hypocrisy, and callousness on the plight of the starving farmers of North Cotabato.” (MCA)